08/07/2014, 00.00
VATICAN - IRAQ
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Pope appeals for an end to the humanitarian tragedy taking place in Iraq

In a statement, the director of the Vatican Press Office emphasises the Pope Francis' spiritual "closeness" with the Iraqi people and the Christians who fled Mosul and Qaraqosh, occupied by the Islamist army. The pontiff calls for an end to the violence and for immediate assistance to deal with the humanitarian emergency, urging everyone to pray.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis is closely following the "terrible developments" that are taking place in northern Iraq, especially affecting Christians.

In a statement on behalf of the pope, Fr Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office, called on the international community to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy and to "protect all those affected or threatened by the violence, and to guarantee all necessary assistance - especially the most urgently needed aid - to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others."

The papal statement comes as Qaraqosh, another town in the Nineveh Plain, fell today into the hands of the Islamist army that seized northern Iraq.

Many residents in Mosul and other towns have already fled to Iraqi Kurdistan as a result of threats, harassment, and executions, not to mention the desecration of churches, abductions and looting. Indeed, the potential for a humanitarian emergency is growing as the number of refugees swells.

Today's statement also comes in response to a letter Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad sent to the pontiff a few days ago. In it, he denounced the forced exodus of Christians and the inability of the international community to act.

Here is the statement by the director of the Vatican Press Office:

The Holy Father is following with deep concern the dramatic news reports coming from northern Iraq, which involve defenceless populations. Christian communities are particularly affected: a people fleeing from their villages because of the violence that rages in these days, wreaking havoc on the entire region.

At the Angelus prayer on July 20th, Pope Francis cried with pain: "[O]ur brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are pushed out, forced to leave their homes without the opportunity to take anything with them. To these families and to these people I would like to express my closeness and my steadfast prayer. Dearest brothers and sisters so persecuted, I know how much you suffer, I know that you are deprived of everything. I am with you in your faith in Him who conquered evil!"

In light of these terrible developments, the Holy Father renews his spiritual closeness to all those who are suffering through this painful trial, and makes the impassioned appeals of the local bishops his own, asking together with them in behalf of their sorely tried communities, that the whole Church and all the faithful raise up with one voice a ceaseless prayer, imploring the Holy Spirit to send the gift of peace.

His Holiness urgently calls on the international community to protect all those affected or threatened by the violence, and to guarantee all necessary assistance - especially the most urgently needed aid - to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others.

The Pope also appeals to the conscience of all people, and to each and every believer he repeats: "May the God of peace create in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is not conquered with violence. Violence is conquered with peace! Let us pray in silence, asking for peace; everyone, in silence.... Mary Queen of peace, pray for us! (Angelus, July 20, 2014)".

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